Climate change: extreme weather events are “the new norm”
Extreme weather events – including severe heat waves and devastating floods – are the new normal now, says the World Meteorological Organization.
The 2021 Climate State Report highlights a world that is “changing before our eyes”.
The 20-year average temperature from 2002 is expected to exceed 1 ° C above the pre-industrial level for the first time.
And the global sea level rose to a new high in 2021, according to the study.
These latest figures for 2021 are being released early by the WMO to coincide with the start of the UN climate change conference in Glasgow known as COP26.
The State of the Climate report provides a snapshot of climate indicators such as temperatures, extreme weather events, sea level rise and sea conditions.
The study concludes that the past seven years, including this one, have been probably the warmest on record as greenhouse gases hit record levels in the atmosphere.
The associated rise in temperature is driving the planet into “uncharted territory”, the report says, with increasing effects on the entire planet.
“Extreme events are the new norm,” said Prof. Petteri Taalas from WMO. “There is growing scientific evidence that some of them are bearing the footprint of man-made climate change.”
Prof. Taalas described some of the extreme events that were witnessed around the world that year.
On the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet, it rained for the first time in records – instead of snowing
A heat wave in Canada and adjacent parts of the United States caused temperatures in a British Columbia village to rise to almost 50 ° C
Death Valley, California reached 54.4 ° C during one of several heat waves in the American Southwest
In one area of China, precipitation fell within hours in a matter of months
Severe floods occurred in parts of Europe, resulting in dozens of casualties and billions in economic damage
A second year of drought in subtropical South America reduced the flow of the river basins and affected agriculture, transport and energy generation
Another worrying development is the rise in global sea levels, according to the WMO study.
Since they were first measured by precise satellite-based systems in the early 1990s, sea levels rose by 2.1 mm per year between 1993 and 2002.
But from 2013 to 2021 the increase more than doubled to 4.4mm, mainly due to accelerated ice loss from glaciers and ice sheets.
“Sea levels are now rising faster than ever in the past two millennia,” said Prof. Jonathan Bomber, director of the Bristol Glaciology Center.
“If we continue on our current path, this increase could exceed 2 million by 2100 and displace around 630 million people worldwide. The consequences of this are unimaginable.”
In terms of temperature, 2021 is likely to be the sixth or seventh warmest on record.
That’s because the first few months of this year have been influenced by a La Niña event, a naturally occurring weather phenomenon that tends to cool global temperatures.
However, the report also shows that the global temperature record is on its way to exceed 1 ° C for the first time over a 20-year period.
“The fact that the 20-year average has reached more than 1.0 ° C above the pre-industrial level will alert the COP26 delegates to keep the global temperature rise within the limits agreed six years ago in Paris”, said Prof. Stephen Belcher, UK Met Office chief scientist who contributed to the report.
Commenting on the analysis, UN Secretary General António Guterres said the planet was changing before our eyes.
“From ocean depths to mountain peaks, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events, ecosystems and communities around the world are devastating,” he said.
“The COP26 must be a turning point for people and the planet,” said Guterres.
The report can be found here.